Title: Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania (DLC)
Developer: Motion Twin, Evil Empire
Publisher: Motion Twin
Release Date: March 6th, 2023
Reviewed on: Steam Deck
Author’s Note: A review key was provided to make this possible.
Roguelike metroidvania hit, Dead Cells, returns again with a delectable and bloody treat! Till now, Dead Cells has provided fans with several DLC: Rise of the Giant, The Bad Seed, Fatal Falls, and The Queen and the Sea. However, this new DLC teams up with the Castlevania franchise.
You return to the all-to-familiar prison with access to two new biomes in Return to Castlevania. As you adventure through the Castle Outskirts and within Dracula’s Castle itself, you meet allies such as Richter Belmont and Alucard. Utilizing new and old weapons, you slash, shoot, and parry your way past Bone Throwers, Mermen, and more until you come face -o-face with Dracula.
And yes, the snarky humor is still ever-present.
This DLC is an extension of what we already know about Dead Cells. With several DLC out, Motion Twin has taken what is fun about Dead Cells and blending Castlevania assets.
The first biome you enter is the Castle Outskirts, which is exactly what it sounds like. What you will notice is that these biomes are fairly large, with lots the explore if you aren’t breezing your way through to achieve the time bonus.
Once you open the drawbridge, the thrilling theme, “Vampire Killer” begins and tickles that nostalgia bone. Let me tell you, this has to be one of my favorite versions of it, even more so than the Super Smash Bros Ultimate rendition. It incites that epic sensation while you are smashing, burning, and freezing your way through the level.
The first portion of the Castle Outskirts is mostly a straight shot with a few opportunities to dive underground and pick up goodies from the shopkeeper (or however that round’s level is set up). The second half is vertical in nature as you flip switches to ascend in the final haul towards Dracula’s Castle.
Dracula’s Castle ratchets the difficulty level up with stronger, more challenging enemies. The space is also large less linear. There is so much to explore in this biome that I preferred to scour every nook and cranny than blast my way to the mini-boss, Death.
Below are some enemies you encounter in these biomes (not all inclusive so you can discover on your own):
- Bone Thrower
Yes, before you enter the Master’s Keep, Death drags you down to the Defiled Necropolis in a fight to the…well, you know. This mini-boss provided a good challenge, and I certainly had to die a few times to understand its pattern. Once victorious, you speak with Alucard who will prepare the way to the final showdown with Dracula himself. At that point, you can make your way to that fight at your next run.
As not to spoil the fun, I will simply state the battle with Dracula was a delight, in both his humanoid and beast forms. It was well worth the follow up run to reach Dracula’s Castle again.
Now, a little about the goodies. There are some Castlevania outfits and weapons you can unlock. Some of the weapons are on my favorites for the game– the Bible and Cross pack a wallop!
Below are some new weapons you can acquire in this DLC (not all inclusive so you can discover on your own):
- Snake Sword
- Morning Star
- Holy Water
- Bat Swarm
If you choose to play Return to Castlevania, don’t forget to switch your diet to Castlevaniesque, too!
The partnership to intertwine Castlevania assets into Dead Cells and its smooth execution are what warrants the 5 rating. Dead Cells has been around for a few years now, and this is Motion Twin’s answer to freshen their content. Because it is a roguelike, the base game had long legs to begin with, but to achieve the “wow” factor, we needed something to set this DLC apart from others–and I believe they did with Return to Castlevania.
The sprite work on the enemies and music really transports me back into the good old days. Richter Mode is also a fun way to experience the game. I could tell a lot of love went into this DLC. Although, I would caution those that haven’t played much of the base game–that the experience would be much more challenging. I do recommend having the runes and several weapons/upgrades unlocked from the base game before you go ham in Return to Castlevania for a more enjoyable experience.
I would love to see more mash-ups like these in the future, if fate allows.
If you are a fan of Dead Cells, roguelikes, and/or Castlevania, this DLC is very much worth it. Return to Castlevania is such a treat–and this is coming from someone who generally doesn’t like roguelikes. So, grab your holy water and cross, and get to it!
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